Playing Handball: How To Serve

Learning to serve properly and effectively are keys to playing handball. Most successful players develop a repertoire of two or three effective serves to mix things up and stymie their opponents in the heat of battle.

Developing a strong serve is a key ingredient to being successful at handball. It's a lot like pitching in baseball. Good major-league pitchers have great control and several types of pitches in their repertoire. They move the ball around the strike zone, sometimes low and inside, sometimes high and outside.

Your strategy in handball should be similar. The most effective serves are those that travel close to the edge of the receiving zone. You can gain complete control of a match by standing in the service box and hitting your serves consistently.

The power serve is the most common serve. It can be an offensive tool if hit correctly and can help tally points quickly. The prerequisite for hitting the power serve is a solid sidearm stroke.

To learn the proper technique, you might want to break the stroke down into small steps. Using the center of your body as the point of contact, draw your stroking arm back about 2 to 3 feet from the center of your body for the backswing. As your shoulder rotates your arm forward, bend your elbow and wrist back slightly. As you make contact with the ball, snap your elbow and wrist forward.

The technique of snapping the wrist and elbow is usually the problem area for most players. They don't snap their wrist and elbow on the point of contact and follow-through. Therefore, they usually fail to achieve maximum power. After you make contact with the ball, follow through with your stroking arm until your hand is pointing toward the wall.

One of the keys to perfecting your serve is the motion of the arm that is not used to strike the ball. Whether or not you use it for dropping the ball, once the ball is tossed, use your free hand as a guide to clear an unobstructed path for your stroking arm. Many players make the mistake of leaving their free arm dangling at their side or resting it on their knee as they stroke the ball. By doing this, you not only restrict your follow-through, but you also decrease your momentum and your power when serving.

When serving, you can also achieve momentum by stepping into the ball. Just stepping forward with your front foot keeps the process nice and compact: Bounce the ball, step and hit. You should bounce the ball in front of you and let it come up to its apex, pull your arm back at the same time. As the ball begins to drop for its second bounce, step forward with your front foot. Simultaneously, bring your arm forward in a striking motion. As you make contact, push with your rear leg and drive your body and ball toward the wall. The more steps you take, the more momentum you will gain.

However, serving with power is only half the battle. Controlling your power is probably the most difficult part of the drive serve. Controlling the serve means keeping the ball in the receiving zone - the floor area behind the short line, inside and including the side and long lines - while keeping it close to the lines. To become a consistent server, you need to make the ball hit the wall at the same height at which your hand strikes the ball. If you make contact at knee height, you should aim for a spot about knee high on the wall.

Whatever height your power will allow you to make contact with the ball and send it toward the wall on the same plane and then barely clear the short line will be the ideal height for your point of contact on the low power serve. You should hit the ball at a higher point on the wall if you want the serve to land near the long line.

Don't try and make contact with the ball so low to the ground that you have to lift it to have it clear the short line. Lifting the ball on your serve will tend to make it land deeper in the receiving zone. With some practice, you will determine your ideal height for the point of contact so you can aim straight ahead and have the ball just clear the short line.

You should also try to serve to your opponent's strong hand. Most players don't learn to play defense as well with their strong hand as they do with their weak hand. The tendency for most players is to go on offense whenever they can hit the ball with their strong hand despite the obvious defensive situation of the return of the ball.

Effective serves to the strong side will require your opponent to make a good defensive return or it may just set them up to make an error. If you are about 15 or 20 feet from the wall and your opponent is trying to go on offense, you may be able to tally easy points by serving to their strong side.

If you serve with your right hand, you can also gain an advantage because the ball will stay in your line of vision. Because you don't have to look over your shoulder when you serve to the left, it will be easier for you to react to your opponent's return when it comes from the right side of the court.

Against most opponents, you can't count on the same service technique for 21 points, and must also perfect other serves. You must learn to serve from different areas on the court and also to hit a variety of serves from the same starting point. You can start by changing your speed and direction of the hook on the ball. That will force your opponent to cover more serves, making each more effective.

Most successful handball players strive to develop two or three effective power serves. This will allow you to mix things up, and to stymie your opponent who might be particularly adept at returning a specific serve. A batter in baseball may be adept at hitting fastballs but not curveballs. In handball, if your opponent can defend your favorite power serve, you must switch to another one that brings the weak returns and aces that you will be able to convert into points.

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